Digital Typography. This reading describes different types of writing systems and the development of computer-based font files for representing them.

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1 D R A F T - FOR DISCUSSION ONLY - D R A F T Digital Typography and computer fonts Introduction Follow-up Classes Other readings This reading describes different types of writing systems and the development of computer-based font files for representing them. Information Architecture, Visual Communication Read the topic on Character Encoding. As long as there have been written systems, there has been an interest in the study of writing and in their aesthetics. The study of symbol systems, however, is incredibly broad. It includes writing-in-society, literacy, politics, paleography, epigraphy, diplomatics, philology, book arts, typography, calligraphy, graphic design, cross-language information retrieval, software localization and internationalization, even Bible studies. Figure 1 suggests the range of research areas and their application. The dominant voice in the study of scripts is that of linguistics, which focuses on the sounds of languages. From its analysis of spoken language using specific units of study, such as the phoneme (the smallest significant unit of sound) and morpheme (the smallest significant unit of semantic meaning), appears the grapheme, the smallest unit of visual language. Within linguistics, a subdomain called grammatology, a term created by I. J. Gelb in 1954, has arisen to refer to the linguistics-based theoretical study of scripts. Grammatology provides a shared set of definitions, useful in any review of scripts. The first is that not all writing systems are alphabets. In addition to our familiar A-B-Cs that represent both consonants and vowels, there are logosyllabaries, or a script that denotes individual words or morphemes as well as particular syllables, syllabaries, whose characters denote just syllables, abjads, such as Arabic, which denote only the consonants, abugida, where a single character denotes a consonant accompanied by a specific vowel (e.g., Indic languages and Ethiopic), and featural systems, such as Korean, where the shapes of the characters correlate with distinctive features or segments of the language (Daniels & Bright, 1996, p. 4). However, there is no report on writing systems available to the generalist that does not immediately drop into the jargon-laden language of the specialist. For instance, someone interested in the beauty of letter forms or digital typography or who is verifying a transliteration of a non-roman language title, or creating a foreign language website isn t likely to understand or care that The character წ represents a glottalized uvular stop... or that a particular phoneme represents ə word-finally and before single consonants including the half-nasals, and represents a before double consonants or clusters (Daniels & Bright, 1996, 410). Moreover linguistics-oriented texts denote the letter forms in small type, so small that the non-specialist is unable to discern whether some tiny stroke on a grapheme is the result of poor printing, an otiose stroke, artistic flair, or a significant indicator separating one grapheme from another. The Library of Congress (LC)

2 Digital Typography & Fonts 2 Topic DigitalTypography.rtf 8/12/09 10:21 AM Romanization tables and the Unicode Consortium Standard tables are two universally employed standards for transliteration and the production of library and website records. The printed version of the LC tables demonstrate the graphemes at about 10 point (e.g., ឣ), with plates that are of such poor quality that the graphemes appear often as small blobs of ink. The Unicode Standard prints the letter forms also at about 10 point on some tables and about 18 point for others but does not provide a sample of the language. Most texts, too, use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to guide the reader in the letter s pronunciation. But this, too, is hardly useful outside the study of spoken languages; after all, who but the specialist can interpret correctly transcriptions such as sila:vigəɖə-bʰi:ca: or la:-ʕavɔ:'ðɛ:-xɔ:. Despite these liabilities, people are, and have been, fascinated by the world s writing systems. The earliest review of writing systems appeared in John de Bry published a series of brass plates, titled Caracters and diversitie of letters vsed by divers nations in the world: the antiquity, manifold vse and varietie thereof: with exemplary descriptions of very many strang alphabets.... Since that time many texts have appeared, falling into the categories we might call semi-scientific and popular treatments. These semi-scientific works include exemplars or reproductions of ancient manuscripts from Greece and lands newly under imperial rule, such as India. These samples appear in the Transactions of the Royal Society and Mémoires de l Académie des inscriptions et belles lettres. Subsequently, the works became more systematized examinations of writing, such as Kopp s Bilder und Schriften der Vorzeit, Faumann s Geschichte der Schrift and accompanying Bild der Schrift, Taylor s The Alphabet. The popular publications of writing systems were fueled by the Renaissance marriage of an interest in ancient Rome and future-looking application of scientific methods to art. The consequence of this union was a number of treatises on writing. The most famous of those imprints include La Operina and Theatrum ars scribendi. Many later popular imprints emphasized the needs of the typographer, such as the Reichsdruckerei s (German State Printing House, then the Royal Printing House) Alphabete und Schriftzeichen des Morgen- und des Abendlandes, which lead in turn to relatively recently printed examinations of letter forms from historical perspectives found in Kapr, Ogg, and Clodd. The interest in writing systems encouraged scholars to contribute with well-illustrated works to counteract the fallacies perpetuated in some of the popular imprints. Gaur s A History of Writing, Diringer s The Alphabet: a key to the history of mankind, Février s Histoire de l écriture, and Gelb s A Study of Writing are still useful and the most sound (from a linguistics point of view), despite introducing some of their own errors. Some valuable texts focus on specific language groups, such as Istrin s 1100 Лет славянской азбуки [1100 Years of the Slavic Alphabet]. Finally, the interest in writing systems is demonstrated by the continued publishing of works such as Katzner s The Languages of the World and Nakanishi s Writing Systems of the World and the appearance of Daniel and Bright s The World s Writing Systems. Katzner's text is actually a sampler of 200 of the world s spoken languages, prepared in the dominant script of the language, with facts about where the languages are spoken. Unfortunately there is no data on individual letterforms and reproduction of old plates clouds the letters making them impossible to read. Nakanishi, a newspaper publisher, prepared a small paperback visual tour of many of the world s writing systems through the newspapers and postal stamps of some of the countries where the script is employed. Both of these monographs are best-sellers, but of extremely limited utility. Daniel & Bright, both former professors of linguistics, edited a series of brief articles detailing the specific linguistic functions of scripts throughout the world. Fascinating in its scope, it is likely to become the standard reference for anyone interested in the history of writing and grammatology. However, the emphasis on IPA transcriptions and minutia of linguistic differentiations, limit the work s usefulness for people interested in the letter forms per se and in checking their own work using foreign languages, such as creating web sites or working in multilingual situations.

3 Digital typography demonstrates the impact technology has had on communication and work. While the history of writing shows the influences of material (stone, paper, papyrus, parchment, wood) and tools (stylus, pencil, brush, inks) and technology (handwritten, printing press, photocomposition, large format cameras, lithography, and photography) on the shapes and uses of writing systems, the introduction of the computer and especially the desktop computer and evolution of digital publishing have altered permanently how letters are created and how people use them. [Read more about the history of writing link] If nothing else consider the differences between preparing a poster for an event using paper and sketching the layout and then having a printing company complete the job to using desktop publishing software and a color laser printer and producing a high quality poster with no help. Fonts in the Western world has historically been measured in points (although there countless regional differences and differences at different eras of time). A point was of an inch. The modern point is 1/72nd of an inch. A letter than is 72 point, then, is 1 high. Most books and word processed documents use a font size between 10 points and 12 points. a a a a a a a a a a a 6 pt a a a a a aaa 24 pt Fonts are classified into two broad groups: serif or sans-serif (with feet, e.g., a, and without feet, e.g., a). Within those two categories are a great many other classifications (such as Gothic, Egyptian, Old Style, Modern, etc.) or by school (Anglo-Dutch, Continental, etc.). There is no standard in the world of typography but it is one of those close-knit, artisan-type worlds that the level of expertise is high enough that typographers all recognize the names. Here are some examples: Sans Serif a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ [Myriad] Serif a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ {Minion}

4 Digital Typography & Fonts 4 Topic DigitalTypography.rtf 8/12/09 10:21 AM a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ [Helvetica] a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ [Optima] й ц у к е н г ш щ з х ъ ё ф ы в а п р о л д ж э я ч с м и т ь ю Й Ц У К Е Н Г Ш Щ З Х Ъ Ё Ф Ы В А П Р О Л Д Ж Э Я Ч С М И Т Ь Б Ю? й ц у к е н г ш щ з х ъ ё ф ы в а п р о л д ж э я ч с м и т ь ю Й Ц У К Е Н Г Ш Щ З Х Ъ Ё Ф Ы В А П Р О Л Д Ж Э Я Ч С М И Т Ь Б Ю? [Lucida grande] a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ [Garamond] a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä ö ü é ç ñ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä Ö Ü É Ç Ñ [Didot] й ц у к е н г ш щ з х ъ ё ф ы в а п р о л д ж э я ч с м и т ь ю Й Ц У К Е Н Г Ш Щ З Х Ъ Ё Ф Ы В А П Р О Л Д Ж Э Я Ч С М И Т Ь Б Ю? й ц у к е н г ш щ з х ъ ё ф ы в а п р о л д ж э я ч с м и т ь ю Й Ц У К Е Н Г Ш Щ З Х Ъ Ё Ф Ы В А П Р О Л Д Ж Э Я Ч С М И Т Ь Б Ю? [Didot] ض ص ث ق ف غ ع ه خ ح ج ة ش س ي ب ل ا ت ن م ك. ظ ط ذ د ز ر و ض ص ث ق ف غ ع ه خ ح ج ة ش س ي ب ل ا ت ن م ك. ظ ط ذ د ز ر و ק ש ע ר ת ט ו י ו פ ײ א ס ד פ ג ה ח כ ל ז כ צ ו ב נ מ

5 Letters are not limited to the 26 of our alphabet; over time and based on handwriting styles, certain letters are expected to be combined in ligatures or otherwise ornamented. One example is the tilde over the letter n in Spanish (ñ) or over a, o, and u (ä, ö, ü) in German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Hungarian and other languages or the é, è, ê, ë, ç, and other accents in Romance languages. These affect the sound of the letter and the etymology of the word but derive originally from shortcuts when writing by hand. The tilde was a sign for a nasal (letter m or n after a vowel). The acute and grave accents indicate morphological changes in the sound or indicate the stress of the word. In Dutch, the indefinite article a is een but the word for the number one is één. In French the circumflex indicates the loss of the letter s from the Latin root: château was written in Old French as chasteau, derived from Latin castel. The now-disregarded (and a great loss it is) letter in German was the double-s ß. It is a relative of a letter English used until the mid-18th century, the long s ſ. The German ß is the long ſ + another s to yield ß. George Washington s name set in the type of his day would appear this way: George Wa ington. Here are some sample ligatures: st ſt ff ffi ffl fl fi. Fonts on the computer screen are drawn either by using a grid (that makes the letters look blocky) or by a drawing program that uses bezier curves and formula to draw the shapes. In the former case, on the Mac, the grid is drawn using QuickDraw, a function built into the Mac s ROM. In the latter, a drawing program such as PostScript, TrueType, and OpenType, are used to draw letters, as if the screen were a laser printer. Ultimately, however, since the computer screen is usually 72 dots per inch (dpi), the result is that the letters look blocky. To combat a technique called anti-aliasing is used to ease the transition between the full color of the letter and the background of the screen. Up close, the letters appear blurry; from a distance the eye harmonizes the blur to make the letters actually look sharper. Qs that are not anti-aliased created in Photoshop, saved as.gif Q drawn by Illustrator but saved as.png Q rendered by the OS for the word processing program, saved as it appears in the.pdf file Q The data that provide the information about fonts reside in font files. Older computer systems need one version of the font for the screen (e.g., the bitmap.bmp version for Windows) and a version for printing (PostScript,.ps or TrueType,.ttf). OpenType is an extension of the other type. Adobe (software company) create PostScript, a page description language, that outlines how to store the characters - in short a mathematical formula how to draw them. As a formula and not bound to a grid, letters drawn using PostScript are clear at all sizes. And, as formulae, the fonts can be manipulated - twisted, turned, tined, rotated, kerned, etc. [Kerning is the small adjustment between letters to compensate for too great or too small optimal spaces between letters.] The font format was made transportable to output devices (printers) as long as these devices has an interpreter, called a Raster Image Processor (PostScript RIP) built in. In addition, the font format files contain instructions how about to enhance quality, hinting instructions that are optimized at any particular size or resolution, leading to PostScript Type 1 (with hints) and Type 3 (without hints). Apple Computers was the first to adopt PostScript. Microsoft and Adobe have formed another cabal to create CoolType and ClearType, specifically to improve fonts on the screen. TrueType emerged soon as an alternative to paying perpetual royalties to Adobe. Apple, with Micosoft, created TrueType for both the computer screen and the printer. Its major advantage was that its interpreter was

6 Digital Typography & Fonts 6 Topic DigitalTypography.rtf 8/12/09 10:21 AM freely available and based on Apple s QuickDraw technology. Adobe responded with Adobe Type Manager (ATM) that converted Adobe font information for the screen as well as for the printer, making RIP obsolete. The data in a font file has grown considerably from bitmaps to outlines to data about how the founds can be manipulated. These resources are too numerous to list here (there are about 40 tables of data), but in general General information: the font ID number, name of the font and creator. Outline information: the mathematical formulae used to create the font and where it is positions on the baseline. Each glyph has a numeric code. Hinting information: to ensure that certain characteristics appear in various conditions, such as printing, different software, resizing, etc. Kerning tables: adjust letter spacing Character substitution: automatically substituting characters with more appropriate ones, while the keystrokes remain the same. This is how ligatures appear; it is required for certain scripts (Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, etc). Fonts: fonts vary not only in their format but also in what is contained in the font file. Today many PostScript fonts for large character sets (e.g., Japanese, Chinese, and Korean) rely on the Character ID (cid) keyed fonts, which allow the remapping of characters through external tables that organize the link between the character code and the glyph code. Multiple Master: PostScript type 1 are called Multiple Master fonts. They contain the data for drawing the font in real time ( on the fly ). Such fonts contain two masters at each extreme of the axis of weight: from extremely light to extremely bold). Then the designer can select which weight to use. Metafont and Tex typesetting is extremely popular in the hard sciences. Most mathematics, computer science, and hard-science publications use these type of font. The software that uses these fonts is Tex, LaTeX or variants. Why this matters A knowledge of digital typography, along with character encoding, are critical for anyone in the information professions. When creating website or documents or preserving born-digital records, this knowledge helps understand the importance of the role of details and graphics in information architecture, web sites, and helps to understand why something does not work properly. Some word processing programs link the user s choice of font to the input method even if you don t want this to happen. Very often, mostly thanks to Microsoft, the same font on one computer will be assigned a font ID but on another computer there might be a conflict between ID numbers. What to know point PostScript TrueType OpenType Adobe Metafont ATM anti-aliasing serif type sans-serif type

7 References 1. AbiFarès, H. S. (2001). Arabic typography. London: Saqi. 2. Agenbroad, J. E. (1992). Nonromanization: prospects for improving automated cataloging of items in other writing systems. Washington, DC: Cataloging Forum, Library of Congress. 3. Akira, N. Writing Systems of the World: alphabets, syllabaries, pictograms. Rutland, VT: Tuttle. 4. Alphabete und Schriftzeichen des Morgen- und des Abendlandes. (1924). Reichsdruckerei: Berlin. 5. Bry, J. T. de. (1628). Caracters and diversitie of letters vsed by divers nations in the world: the antiquity, manifold vse and varietie thereof: with exemplary descriptions of very many strang alphabets, curiously cutt in brasse by Iohn Theod. de Bry deceased. Franckfort on the Mayne: Printed by Iohn Nicol: Stolzenberger for William Fitzer. Frankfurt: Stolzenberger. 6. Catford, J. C. (1988). A Practical Introduction to Phonetics. Oxford: Clarendon. 7. Clodd, E. (1904). The Story of the Alphabet. New York: Appleton. 8. Coulmas, F. (1989). The Writing Systems of the World. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 9. Coulmas, F. (1996). The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 10. Daniels, P. T., & Bright, W. (Eds.). (1996). The World s Writing Systems. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 11. Diringer, D. (1968). The Alphabet: a key to the history of mankind. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. 12. Février, J.-G. (1959). Histoire de l'écriture. Paris: Payot. 13. Fraenkel, G. (1965). Writing Systems. Boston: Ginn. 14. Funke, F. (1959). Buchkunder: ein Überblick über die Geschichte des Buch- und Schriftwesens. Leipzig: O. Harrossowitz. 15. Gaur, A. (1992). A History of Writing. Ref. ed. London: British Library. 16. Gelb, I. J. (1963). A Study of Writing. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. 17. Истрин, В. (n.d.) Лет славянской азбуки [1100 Years of the Slavic Alphabet]. Москва: Книга. 18. Kapr, A. (1983). The Art of Lettering: the history, anatomy, and aesthetics of the Roman letter forms. München, New York: Saur. 19. Kapr, A. (1983). Schriftkunst. Anatomie und Schönheit der lateinischen Buchstaben. München, New York. 20. Kapr, A. (1993). Fraktur. Form und Geschichte der gebrochenen Schriften. Mainz. 21. Katzner, K. (2002). The Languages of the World. London & New York: Routledge. 22. Library of Congress, Cataloging Distribution Service. ALA-LC Romanization Tables: transliteration schemes for non-roman Scripts. Washington, DC: Library of Congress. 23. Logan, R. K. (1986). The Alphabet Effect: the impact of the phonetic alphabet on the development of Western civilization. New York: Morrow. 24. Martin, H. J. (1994). The History and Power of Writing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 25. Nakanishi, A. (1980). Writing Systems of the World: Alphabets, Syllabaries, Pictorgrams. Rutland, VT: Tuttle. 26. Ogg, O. (1961). The 26 Letters. New York: Crowell. 27. Rahmer, A. (1974). Schriften. Handbuch der Druckschriften. Stuttgart. 28. Reading the Past: ancient writing from cuneiform to the alphabet. Introduced by J. T. Hooker. Berkeley: University of California Press. 29. Robinson, A. (1999). The Story of Writing. London: Thames & Hudson. 30. Sampson, G. (1985). Writing Systems: a linguistic introduction. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 31. Tschichold, J. (1948). An Illustrated History of Writing and Lettering. New York: Columbia University Press. 32. Unicode Consortium. (2009). The Unicode Standard, version 5.0. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Web sites: [for Indian languages, in German] [in German]

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